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NEWS Mar 29, 2020 by Craig Campbell

Dundas Star News

Whether implementing life-saving protocols or keeping families connected, front-line staff at the St. Joseph’s Villa long-term care home are stepping up for at-risk residents during an unprecedented time.

Villa president John Woods said the Villa is an essential service – and the entire team are proud essential service workers.

“In every department, there are small acts of kindness and courage every day,” Woods said.

No personal visits inside or outside the building are allowed, other than limited exceptions for very ill residents or those requiring end-of-life care.

Villa registered practical nurse Elaine Ford said those necessary restrictions mean difficult times for residents and their families.

“At a time of concern, our residents are separated from their families. We’re seeing a lot of tears. We’re all doing our best to comfort them,” Ford said.

Ten therapeutic recreationists (TR) working in the Villa’s various residential areas keep elderly residents in contact with family and friends through phone and Skype video calls.

Staff arranged for a resident’s family members to wave to her, holding signs with personal messages, from the parking lot below.

“We had them call my work cell and they talked through the window,” said TR Pamela Tasane. “Everyone was crying – in a good way.”

On Friday, March 27 at 11 a.m., Villa staff held the first of what is planned to be a regular Let’s Make Noise event, where family members pull into the parking lot and honk their horns and make noise, letting residents know they’re there.

“The Villa team is getting creative in keeping connections strong while visiting is restricted,” said St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation chief development officer Sarena Paton. “This will be a weekly event, while the community and the country work together to keep people safe and healthy.”

Amanda Rip, a therapeutic recreationist, said her goal is to connect residents with their loved ones, and she feels fortunate to have that role.

In the past week, she has facilitated Skype and phone calls and birthday celebrations from the parking lot. She described it as social distancing at its finest.

“Seeing the happiness on a resident’s face when they see their loved ones, whether on the computer screen or across the parking lot singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ is truly a special moment,” Rip said.

The community, in return, is stepping up to show support for Villa front-line workers.

Paton said Dave Weber, senior partner of Sims Advertising and a Villa volunteer, ordered 300 slices of pizza for the Villa’s night shift and issued a challenge on social media.

“Frontline staff is demonstrating real care and compassion … it would be a good idea to send them some comfort food to say thanks,” Weber said.

Schuurman Greenhouse and Holland Park Garden Gallery dropped off hundreds of plants and flowers to thank staff and brighten residents’ spirits.

Villa administrator Mieke Ewen said it’s touching to see the community rally behind long-term care staff and residents.

“We feel it and we’re so grateful,” Ewen said. “This kindness gives us comfort and helps us get through all the changes and challenges.”

St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation president and CEO Don Davidson thanked the community for standing with the long-term care home.

“We’re so proud of the Villa’s front-line workers as they continue to care for, and protect, Villa residents,” he said. “Our sole focus right now is supporting the Villa through this crisis and emerging from this moment stronger and more united.”

Davidson said Margaret’s Place Hospice construction continues uninterrupted.

“We live in an incredible community that supports community,” he said. “Now more than ever, your support matters.”

Davidson and St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation board chair David Curto noted the significant role the institution’s front-line staff are playing in a letter to the community, that could not be published in the Dundas Star News due to COVID-19-related space reductions.

“As our country is grappling with protecting and maintaining the health and well-being of Canadians and lessening the impact on our health-care system, the Villa team continues to go above and beyond, without hesitation – just as they always do,” Davidson and Curto said.